We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog because I am livid. And disgusted. And disappointed.
I am Catholic by choice. I joined the Roman Catholic Church (“the Church”) in my 30’s because I decided that’s where I wanted to raise my children. I was brought up in the Methodist Church, and left because I didn’t like the attitudes. I spent my young adulthood in Baptist churches, but left because I didn’t care for the behavior. I found the structure and ritual of the Mass comforting.
Thanks to global communications and the 24-hour news cycle, we’re discovering things about the Church that threaten – nay, promise – to shake the institution to it’s very foundation; by what is revealed or concealed. It appears that, for at least the last several decades (and I suspect much longer), the Church has been practicing a hidden Sacrament, which I have named the Sacrament of the Orgy.
Now, before you become totally offended, allow me to explain how I came to name this sacrament. In my angst, I commented that it seemed like the Church was turning into one big orgy. One of my fellow bloggers, who happens to be an ancient Greek language scholar, pointed out that the word “orgy” is related to the Greek word “orgia.” Orgia were rites in Greek and Hellenistic mystery religions that may have evolved to include sex or imitating sexual acts. While it is significant to point out that orgies involve consensual sex, and – by all indications – what has been occurring in the Church is not consensual, the widespread nature of the behavior does, in my opinion, rise to an equal level of debauchery. Hence, the name.
As alarming and distasteful as the idea of widespread sexual abuse committed by priest upon children and junior priests is, it is not surprising. In a very real way, the Church models abusive behavior for its Religious with very strict requirements which have absolutely no bearing on their ability to practice their chosen vocation. Why would an institution which owns some of the most valuable antiquities in Europe (not to mention some wickedly prime real estate) require its employees to take a vow of poverty? Why would an organization whose primary source document urges Believers to “be fruitful and multiply” demand celibacy? How, in 2012, can a global organization continue to stubbornly enforce a system of rigid patriarchy that subjugates women to a lesser position in pretty much every aspect of religious life?
This may, however, be just the wake-up call the Church needs. The demographics of the Church are changing. While the congregation grows ever browner, the face of the Church remains old and white. As HIV/AIDS continues to ravage Africa, the Church stands firm against the use of condoms. And I don’t at all appreciate anyone who has no idea how expensive raising a child is these days telling me I don’t have the right – or responsibility – to control my fertility.
As dark a cloud as these recent developments have cast over the Church, perhaps there is a silver lining to be found. Perhaps, finally, the wealthy, authoritarian behemoth known as Vatican City will be forced to face how woefully out of step it is with reality. As secret coffers are pried open to compensate sexual abuse victims who refuse to harbor their dark secrets any longer, dioceses and archdioceses are left with no or severely weakened leadership and credibility as bishops retire or are dismissed in shame, the membership of the College of Cardinals is significantly compromised by questions of the suitability of its members to responsibly select a new Church leader, and the Church faces a possibly pontiff-less Easter, we may be witnessing a true Come-to-Jesus moment.
And, in my opinion, it is long overdue.